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St. Ambrose of Milan, Letters (1881) Preface to the online edition

Everyone knows that there is a selection of letters of St. Ambrose in the Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers.  I was aware of translations of more, which were in copyright, but while searching catalogues for out of copyright letters, I stumbled across the translation of the complete letters in the old Oxford Movement Library of the Fathers.

Like most people, I had hitherto supposed that all the texts translated in that series had either be retranslated or else incorporated in the Ante-Nicene Fathers series.  It now became clear to me that this was not so, and I searched out a list of all the volumes, which can be found elsewhere in this collection as a tool for researchers.

The reason why the compilers of the Ante-Nicene Fathers collection did not pick up this volume seems to be that it had only recently appeared.  Although prepared in the heyday of the Oxford Movement, the unknown translator had died before it had been published.  As the editors grew weary and the project ground to a halt, various texts remained unpublished.  These appeared much later in the 19th century; this one almost 40 years later in 1881.  

Other translations have since been made.  A complete translation, in a different order, appeared in the Fathers of the Church series in 1954.  Dr. Mary Whitby has kindly emailed me to let me know that a new translation of book 10 of the letters, together with some additional letters and two political orations,two orations, one on the death of Theodosius I and one on Valentinian II, should appear in 2005 from the >Liverpool University Press Translated Texts for Historians.   This should be warmly welcomed, and is undoubtedly much easier to read!  The TTH series contains many texts translated into English for the first time, and is undoubtedly one of the most praiseworthy efforts of our times.

The Oxford Movement volume was complete, except that letters 5 and 6 concerning false accusations against a holy virgin, Indicia, were not translated.  The Latin of these was given at the end, since the topic was rather indecent.

I began by transcribing all the notes and marginal notes; after doing about a third of the volume with great labour, it became clear to me that I would not complete the remainder that way, for lack of time.  For these I omitted the very copious biblical references given in the margins in the original.  All the footnotes and marginal notes in Latin are included, however.

12th July 2004


Mary Melchior BEYENKA, Saint Ambrose Letters, 1-91, Catholic University of America Press (1954).  Reprint 2002, ISBN 0813210917.

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This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2004.  All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.

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